The secret language of journalists

A whinge – the collective noun for a group of journalists is “a whinge”.
Widows – a line at the end of a paragraph that contains a single word. In a nod to the sexism of yesteryear, widows are considered unsightly, rather than being regarded as independent beings with thoughts and feelings of their own.
Orphans – according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an orphan is “a word or line undesirably separated by a page break from the paragraph to which it belongs”. See also, the possibly apocryphal “DOCS children”.
Hack – journalist. Also, hackette.
Yarn – story.
Quality yarn – something that might end up on page 1. See also, “a cracker of a yarn”.
Dog’s dicks – exclamation marks. Used by older hacks and hackettes.
Stalin’s Blue Pencil – Stalin is described by some as the most influential – and terrifying – editor to have ever lived, editing official documents with his trusty and feared blue pencil. A modern-day reference to “Stalin’s Blue Pencil” can refer to a savage editing job, rather than an annotation that resulted in thousands of unfortunates being sent to the gulags.
Kern – to reduce the spacing between letters so as to fit more copy in. Also, see the punnish headline “this lady’s not for kerning”.
Snapper – photographer. Regarded by some snappers as derogatory: they would prefer to be known as “visual storytellers”.
Dinkus – one of the many amusing double entendres journalists make in the name of graphic design.
Wowsers – the arch enemies of Australia’s “P-mags”, wowsers were the type of killjoy conservatives and self-appointed moral guardians who had dwarf throwing banned. The word has sadly fallen into misuse, presumably because the wowsers also got it banned just like dwarf throwing.
Style guide – official guide to spelling and grammar for any august organ. Although it’s funny how many get “nunchuks” wrong (it’s actually nunchaku).
Subs – sub-editors. Not to be confused with the Collins Class vessels that protect our shores, nor the American “hoagie”.
Ramming speed – the speed to which subs must row to clear the 50-odd stories in the sub-editors’ desk one hour before deadline.
Oxford comma – according to legend, the knowledge of how the Oxford comma works is handed down in secret ceremonies not unlike the darkest of Masonic rites.
J Grade – one’s journalistic grade from one to 10. Much like top-level initiates of certain religions, J-10s are believed to possess magical powers such as walking on water and having their stories go to print without a single word being changed.
Pinch test – the ad hoc measuring of a publication by its size. A section that has dramatically dropped in page numbers may be regarded as having failed the “pinch test”.
Redundo – shorthand for redundancy.
Redundancy cake – the cake given to those who take “redundo”. The type of cake is usually left up to the recipient and may very well reflect their mood upon leaving: beware the hack that requests rum cake.
Apres moi, le deluge – a last remark made by the wittier redundo recipients as they leave the building.
Poodle walker – a hack in the “softer” areas of journalism such as entertainment or the arts rather than “hard news”.
Anglo-Saxon Wrist – slang for “repetitive stress injury”.
Spiked – once upon a time rejected stories were literally impaled on a metal spike. Nowadays such spiking occurs electronically, although the stabbing pain felt by said journalist is just the same.

My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is out now on Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s